Local briefs – January 28

A Red Deer man who led police on a chase after stealing cigarettes has been jailed for two years.

Chase leads to jail

A Red Deer man who led police on a chase after stealing cigarettes has been jailed for two years.

Michael Gary Scholl, 27, pleaded guilty recently in Red Deer provincial court to failing to stop for police, theft and failing to comply with a court order.

Police were forced to get the vehicle off Hwy 2 just before Christmas by deploying spikebelts.

Scholl was one of two men in the car that didn’t stop for police around the Penhold overpass before noon on Dec. 20.

The commotion started in Red Deer at about 9:40 a.m. when Red Deer City RCMP were alerted to a theft of cigarettes at the Express 24 in Eastview.

The vehicle sped off when police attempted to pull it over.

Lacombe Police Service set spikebelts at overpasses in the fleeing vehicle’s path, starting with the Aspelund Road overpass at Blackfalds.

A tire fell off the vehicle and it veered into the median, coming to rest in knee-deep snow.

Scholl also had his driver’s licence suspended for three years.

The other man in the vehicle, Jason Arsenault, 24, of Red Deer wasn’t charged in that incident but was jailed for 45 days on Dec. 21 after violating conditions stemming from a forgery conviction last summer.


Man dies in crash

A 67-year-old Bentley man died in two-vehicle collision northeast of Blackfalds on Wednesday.

A second man, a 37-year-old resident of Red Deer, was transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Red Deer Rural RCMP responded to the collision at 1 p.m. at the intersection of the Woody Nook Road and Township Road 40-2, which is about 3.5 km east and six km north of Blackfalds.

RCMP said the collision is still under investigation with the goal of clearly establishing direction of travel for each of the vehicles involved prior to the collision. Both men were driving pickup trucks.

The name of the deceased man has not been released by police pending notification of family. Police did not identify the community where he is from.


Jailed for scams

A man with a lengthy history of scamming acquaintances out of large sums of money was jailed for two years on Wednesday.

Michael Searle Skinner, 49, of Red Deer, will serve another 16 months in jail when he was sentenced in provincial court.

Skinner was credited by Judge David Plosz with eight months custody for the time he served in remand awaiting disposition of his charges.

Skinner pleaded guilty last fall to three charges, including fraud of more than $5,000.

Sentencing was adjourned for a pre-sentence report.

Skinner has been in custody since he was arrested on 15 outstanding warrants 13 months ago.

He also served an 11-month sentence after pleading guilty to possession of stolen property valued at more than $5,000, failing to attend court and driving offences last fall in Wetaskiwin court.

Crown prosecutor Tony Bell told court that the most serious offence occurred on Sept. 8, 2008, when Skinner scammed a former school friend out of $20,000 to buy some cattle through another person.

There was never any deal and none of the money was returned.

Skinner served a jail sentence a few years ago after conning a senior citizen out of about $10,000 on the pretence of needing the money for a medical operation in the United States.

Court heard Skinner has been scamming people for years in Red Deer and Central Alberta, even posing one time as a doctor.

He has also been convicted previously of impersonating a policeman.


Federal time for chase, crash

A man who led police on a chase and crashed in the Burnt Lake district after stealing a pickup was handed a federal jail term on Wednesday.

Frederick Robertson, 30, of no fixed address, was sentenced to two years in jail after pleading guilty to dangerous driving, failing to stop for police, mischief to property and driving while prohibited.

Provincial court Judge David Plosz heard that Robertson still had six months to serve on a three-year driving suspension he picked up in Calgary on July 18, 2008, for dangerous driving causing bodily harm. That incident saw him jailed for three months.

Plosz suspended Robertson’s licence for another four years once his Calgary suspension ends.

Court heard that Robertson has a lengthy criminal record.

“You have a criminal record that would choke a horse,” Plosz said after reading Robertson’s record. “You’re doing life on the installment plan,” the judge added.

Court heard that RCMP were forced to use a spikebelt on Jan. 9 in an attempt to stop Robertson.

The incident started in the Kentwood subdivision about 11:20 p.m. Police received a call from a resident that his truck had been stolen.

RCMP said the truck owner noticed his vehicle running outside and when he investigated, the person in the truck took off.

Police spotted the stolen vehicle near the intersection of Taylor Drive and started pursuing it at slow speeds.

The driver proceeded west on Hwy 11A and evaded the spikebelt by driving into the oncoming lane. He then fled down rural roads, where he smashed into a rural residential fence, damaging it. He then got stuck in a snowbank and was arrested.


Package seized from jail visitor

A package — believed to be 80 grams of marijuana valued at $13,000 — was seized from a visitor to Bowden Institution on Tuesday.

The visitor, who has not been named, was arrested and is facing criminal charges.

Correctional Service Canada uses methods including searches of offenders and visitors, ion scanners, drug detector dogs, and searches of buildings and cells to try to control the flow of drugs into federal institutions.

The Bowden Institution seizure was the result of combined efforts by Correctional Officers, Security Intelligence Officers and the Innisfail RCMP detachment.

Bowden Institution, a federal penitentiary located between Innisfail and Bowden, has 563 medium security offenders and 74 minimum security offenders.


Trail route close

Lacombe County hopes to nail down a route for a new trail between Lacombe and Blackfalds next week.

Phil Lodermeier, the county’s operations manager, said there have been some landowner holdouts, but he was hoping to have a workable route established in the next few days.

“It looks pretty positive,” he said in a report to county council. Even if not all landowners agree to sell the county a five-metre strip of property, alternative routes can be found on county-owned land.

Not all opposition is based on issues connected with a trail, he said. It appears one landowner is opposed because of bad feelings left over from unrelated dealings with the county.

The county is also still awaiting official approval from Canadian Pacific Railway, which must approve a track crossing. Final sign-off still must come from an official representing the Canada Agriculture Research Centre, which owns a large tract of land near Lacombe.

Lodermeier said negotiating with landowners and finding a route has been challenging.

“It’s much more difficult than it is for buying (land) for roads, for whatever reason,” he said. “We’ll never make everyone happy, but I think we can do a really nice job.”

Originally, the trail was to run up the west side of Lacombe Lake, but landowner resistance caused the route to be switched to the east side. It will largely follow Range Road 27-2.

The county has set aside $700,000 to build the six-km link to trails in Blackfalds and Lacombe. It is hoped most of the paved biking and walking trail will be finished this year.

Last year, a pedestrian bridge was built over the Blindman River and a short stretch of trail built to Blackfalds.


Property notices in the mail

Property assessment notices for 2011 are in the mail and the majority of Red Deer home owners can expect a slight decrease in their assessment.

Overall residential assessments in 2010 had an average decrease of around one per cent, said Brian Lutz, city assessor.

“Approximately sixty per cent of properties will see some form of a decrease in their assessment,” he said.

Due to a number of variables, however, market shifts in the residential sector will create assessments that may increase or decrease more than the average, Lutz added.

The price of the home, neighbourhood, type of home and any changes made to the property all impact the final value.

The value on the property assessment notice will be used to calculate 2011 property taxes. Each property tax notice is based on the assessed property value multiplied by the property tax rate, which is determined by city council in May.

People who do not receive an assessment notice by Monday are encouraged to contact Revenue and Assessment Services at 403-342-8126.

Lutz recommended owners resolve any concerns they have with their assessment before the deadline stated on the assessment notice as property tax notices that are mailed out in May cannot be disputed.

If property owners are unable to resolve their concerns through a conversation with an assessor, a formal appeal to the Clerk of Regional Assessment Review Board can be filed before March 21.

Details on submitting an appeal can be obtained through the Clerk of the Regional Assessment Review Board, located on the second floor of City Hall.

Property owners can get more information about the City of Red Deer property assessments and taxes at www.reddeer.ca/tax.


Greyhound ATM hit by thieves

Money from the ATM machine inside the Greyhound Bus Depot in Red Deer was stolen this week. Red Deer City RCMP responded to a break and enter at the bus depot shortly after 6 a.m. on Monday.

Police believe that a suspect or suspects broke into the bus depot sometime between 11 p.m. on Sunday and 6 a.m. on Monday.

Entry was gained through broken glass on the east side of the building, which is located in the 4300 block of 50th Avenue. An undisclosed amount of cash was taken. RCMP continue to investigate the incident with assistance from the forensic identification section.

Anyone with information regarding the identity of the person or persons responsible for this crime is asked to contact Red Deer City RCMP at 403-343-5575.

If you wish to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or report it online at www.tipsubmit.com. Tipsters are eligible for a cash reward of up to $2,000 if a information leads to an arrest.


Caroline plant still shut down

Shell Canada’s gas plant and related gas fields northwest of Caroline remain shut down since the failure just before Christmas of some steam heating coils.

The heating system is used to maintain sulphur in its liquid form, communications officer Patty Richards said from her office in Edmonton on Wednesday.

The plant was shut down on Dec. 21, with plans to start it back up at the end of the month.

But an exact time for the restart has not yet been determined, said Richards. “We’re not going to start up again until we’re certain that everything is safe for processing,” she said.

“We did do an extensive review of the incident but the results are internal. What I can tell you is that the investigation confirmed that all appropriate precautions were taken and that (at) no time were our employees or the people who work for us (or) the public ever at risk,” she said. Earlier, Shell spokeswoman Amy Tillotson said the 100 full- and part-time workers would stay on the job, performing maintenance and other duties.


Fire hall overruns

Lacombe County will dip into reserves to cover a small cost overrun on a new fire hall in Alix. The hall project had been budgeted at $530,000 but the final bill came in at $551,413.

The extra money needed will be split between the Village of Alix and the county.

The county and Alix each paid $223,722 towards the fire hall, with another $103,970 coming from a provincial grant.

Keith Boras, the county’s manager of environmental and protective services, said a couple of unexpected additions had to be made during construction that added to the cost. A new water line from a nearby public works building had to be added as well as a septic waste tank.

Council unanimously agreed to approve the final budget and an additional cost of $10,706.

Also passed unanimously was a $17,648 request to upgrade communications at the new fire hall, which was opened last December.

Meanwhile, the county and Town of Bentley have begun preparing for the replacement of the town’s fire hall, which is inadequate for the volunteer fire department’s needs. Councils from the town and county have approved forming a committee to look into fire hall replacement. A similar approach was taken when the Eckville and Alix fire halls needed replacing.

Last year, the county put aside $450,000 in a reserve account in anticipation of the project.


Man remanded in machete attack

A 25-year-old man charged in a machete attack will have a trial this summer.

John Casey Wenger from Red Deer County was remanded in custody to appear on Aug. 15 for an all day trial in Red Deer provincial court following an appearance on Thursday.

Wenger is charged with two counts of assault with a weapon, one count of aggravated assault and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.

Red Deer City RCMP said that a man was stabbed on Jan. 15 in a downtown Red Deer apartment complex.

A 33-year-old stabbing victim was hospitalized and is recovering from his injuries.

RCMP responded at about 3 a.m. to complaints in the 4700 block of 55th Street.

Police allege a group of people had been drinking and smoking salvia, a hallucinogenic herb that’s not prohibited in Canada. The victim, who wasn’t smoking salvia, and the accused got into a physical confrontation that escalated and the victim was stabbed with a machete.

Another man was also assaulted but suffered no serious injuries.

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